I have done this type of thing multiple times in the past where I make suggestions as to how the NFL could make itself or its product even better than it is. The reason I pick on the NFL here is that it is the best of the US professional leagues in terms of marketing its product and presenting it to its fans. That means finding “areas of improvement” is a tad more difficult that it would be – say – than for Team Tennis or synchronized swimming.
I harbor no illusions that someone on Roger Goodell’s staff is going to print a copy of this rant, make marginal annotations and go running into the Commish’s office to show it to “The Big Guy”. Nonetheless, I think these suggestions would improve the product.
Let me start with a really trivial suggestion. The NFL no longer needs any coin tossing. In baseball, they do not have a coin toss to see who bats first and who does not. All the NFL has to do is decide if the home team or the visiting team will get the choice at the beginning of a game and then give the option to the other team at halftime. The coin toss is a waste of time and energy.
I have anticipated the first objection one might have to that suggestion:
Yeah, but what about the coin tosses for overtime games. How would you decide who gets to choose what they want to do at the start of overtime?
Actually, the answer to that question is pretty simple and it leads directly to my second suggested improvement:
Get rid of overtime games. The world does not need overtime games. Having a game end in a tie is not a tragedy or an abomination in the sight of the Lord.
The only time the NFL should play an overtime game is in the playoffs where indeed there needs to be a winner and a loser simply because someone has to figure out which team will be playing the following week and which team will be starting their off-season. So, for those few times when playoff games have to go to OT, you could have established the protocol that the visiting team will get the choice and move on from there.
[Aside: Phil Luckett might read this suggestion and wonder why it had not been in place for that infamous Thanksgiving Day game where as a ref he flubbed the coin toss in OT.]
The third suggestion is a scheduling suggestion. The NFL needs to stretch out the regular season to 18 weeks – not to increase the number of games in the regular season but to give each team 2 Bye Weeks. Here is how the Bye Weeks would work:
Any team playing a game on a Thursday will have a Bye Week on the Sunday before that game. That way, no team will be asked to play a game on 3 days’ rest.
If a team plays twice on Thursdays, that is how they will get their 2 Bye Weeks. If a team plays only once on Thursday, then it will get its Bye Week randomly between Weeks 4 and 12.
That change might be complicated just a tad if the NFL is serious about continuing to play multiple games each year in London – or anywhere else where 5-8 time zones might be interspersed between a team’s home venue and the game venue. There ought to be some kind of “Bye Week Relief” for teams that make that kind of journey – particularly if the game is in London and the team is a West Coast team.
The fourth suggestion is also about scheduling. When teams play on Monday night, they face a shorter week of preparation than their next opponent who had to have played on Sunday – or even on the previous Thursday. There is nothing that can be done to change that but there is something that happens now that can be avoided.
Teams that play on Monday night will play at home the following week.
If a Monday night team has to go on the road for the next game, it means that their shortened preparation time is shortened even more. Just schedule them at home for the next week…
For “in-game” changes that will improve the product, please consider disallowing any “icing the kicker” calls. This adds exactly nothing to the game; the NFL markets competition and not gamesmanship. Here is a pretty simple rule:
When a team is lining up for a place kick of any kind (field goal or PAT), the defensive team may not call time out once the play clock is down to 12 seconds.
If a coach wants a time out to map out some stratagem for the imminent kick, make him choose to do that in the first 28 seconds that the play clock runs. This is not difficult…
Another “in game change” that might help – but it should be tested out in the pre-season before it is implemented – would be to clarify what is pass interference and on whom should it be called. How about this rule:
The receiver and the defender can push, hit, shove, block, elbow each other – not hold but any of the above is OK – until the ball is released from the QBs hand. At that point, no one touches anyone. The first player to initiate contact after that point is guilty of pass interference.
One benefit of this rule would be that when the QB throws the ball on a deep sideline pass down the right side, there will be no need to call “illegal contact” between a defender and a receiver in the right flat 45 yards distant from where the pass was intended.
The final suggestion for an in-game change is a two-pronged suggestion that has to do with penalties marked off as “half-the-distance to the goal line”. The problem with those penalties is that they do not punish the offender to the extent that was intended. Therefore, consider these cases:
Team in possession of the ball – or the team receiving a punt or kickoff – commits a holding penalty at the ten yardline. Instead of walking off only 5 yards, keep the ball at the ten yardline and move the first down marker an extra 10 yards downfield. In my example here, the offensive team would need to get to the 30 yardline to get the first first-down in its drive. If offensive holding is indeed worthy of a 10-yard penalty, then it should cost the offensive team 10 yards.
Team on defense jumps offside when the offense has the ball on the 2 yardline. That needs to cost the defensive team 5 yards and not the 1 yard that it is going to cost them now. In this case, you give the offensive team the following choice:
a. Accept the 1-yard penalty and move on. The team may do this because that 1 yard could give them a first down. Or, they just may do this for some other reason that makes sense to the coach at that moment.
b. Wait until the next time the team committing the penalty has the ball on offense. In that first possession, position the ball on first down such that it is first-and-fifteen for the offense to start its drive.
One more suggestion here and it has to do with use of the replay cameras. Every once in a while, there is some kind of confrontation on the field that involves pushing/shoving and that sometimes escalates into a melee. Fans do not tune in to watch a melee; this is not pro ‘rassling. Moreover, it is an indictment of the integrity of the game when the announcers can clearly say that the instigator of the situation is not the one being punished because they only “catch” they guy who retaliates. Thus, whenever there is such an incident, the replay cameras should be used to determine the instigator of the situation and to punish him to a greater extent than others who are involved subsequent to the instigation.
I do not expect any of these suggestions to happen any time soon. In fact, I do not expect any of these suggestions to get serious consideration for implementation. Nonetheless, I think each of them would represent a small positive increment in the NFL product. Before anyone asks, no, I have no idea whatsoever how one could improve the synchronized swimming product…
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………